Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew grants only a handful of interviews each season, and so I always feel compelled to pore over every word for information and tone from the man charged with rebuilding the organization. Likewise, I'm sure many of you many will read through the latest quotes as well after seeing the headline on this post.
Mayhew is the furthest thing from a trash talker and clearly not someone who tries to make headlines. In reality, Lions fans should have been disappointed if he said anything other than what he told reporters Friday morning at Lions camp. A sampling, courtesy of the Lions web site:
"I think we're at a point now where we expect to challenge for our division and that's what most good teams expect to do."
"It feels great to see that I think we can match up with anybody in this league with the team that we have right now. That feels great. But we have to go out and do it. We have to go out and win football games. That's what our team is going to be about."
Most people will latch on to "challenge for our division" and "match up with anybody in this league." So you should be aware that Mayhew also said: "We have a lot of work to do." He was stating his expectations, not offering a prediction.
I really don't think Mayhew was calling his shot or sending a message to players or the coaching staff. Frankly, he should have high(er) expectations now that he is entering the third season of the Lions' current front office-coaching regime.
I realize Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz began their combined tenure after the worst season in NFL history, meaning their journey back to competitiveness would be more difficult than most. Regardless, the Lions don't deserve -- and shouldn't want -- to be graded on a curve anymore. They have fortified their roster with enough good players to compete in every game.
Only the absolute worst teams in the NFL start a season with modest expectations. Everyone else should trust that their offseason work has put them in a place where, if things go their way, the playoffs are a real possibility. That's what Mayhew's comment should signify. The Lions have upgraded into the "everyone else" category. Welcome back to the NFL, Detroit.